27 July 2010

Books: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (2010)

In the finale of this series, Stieg Larsson pulls out all the bells and whistles to give us a satisfying ending to the arc started in "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" and continued in "The Girl Who Played With Fire."

In "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest", we begin only moments after the second book ended, with Lisbeth Salander near death after being shot and buried alive by her father and half-brother. Of course, she does survive. But survival comes at a cost. While she’s been cleared of the murders she was accused of in the second book, she still is facing charges related to her attack on her father. But the sinister forces that had her declared mentally incompetent and that had sent her to a cruel institution when she was a child are reactivated due to the events of the second novel. Their goal is too get her locked up again and are working to have her charged with two murders along with the attempted murder of her father, that Russian gangster.

The only one who believes she’s innocent of everything is faithful Millennium publisher Mikael Blomkvist, who now must risk his life and those who surround him, to prove to the courts that Lisbeth Salander maybe antisocial, violent and stubborn, but she does have a moral code. And that her civil rights were violated and someone needs to pay for that.

The novel works in Cold War conspiracies and along with what was probably Larsson’s life work: some men’s hatred of women, and the threat to Swedish democracy posed by right-wing elements in the security service. Through Salander -whom Larsson said is a twisted version of the popular Swedish children’s heroine, Pippi Longstocking - the author gives voice to those who would do anything and everything to degrade women. Some have accused Larsson of being a misogynist, by creating such female character as Lisbeth -who seems to be bisexual, who gets her ass kicked from time-to-time, without being able to do anything about her victimization and other such things. However, I think that was his point.

The same, I guess, can be said about the subplot in this book dealing with Millennium’s Editor-in Chief, Erika Berger. She takes a new job as editor of a major newspaper and butts heads with the male dominated editorial staff and quickly acquires a stalker who begins sending her notes calling her a “whore.” It has no bearing on the main story, and really seems to be there to show the female readers of his books that he is aware of all those oppressed women in the work place. Norma Rae he might not be, but he understands their issues.

Larsson ties up most of the storylines begun in the first two books, and yet, if I’m not mistaken, there was a hint at where the series would have probably went next -the search for Lisbeth’s twin sister -rumors fueled by Larsson’s long-time girlfriend suggest a fourth book was near completion when the author died in 2004. If there is no more, the trilogy ends with no major plots left unsolved.

In the end, the phenomena that is Stieg Larsson and his bestselling Millennium series can overcome certain aspects of books -the lurid tales of dirty old men who hate women and will do anything -including murder - to keep them down. They are intelligent, well paced thrillers that will make you want to tell your friends and family to read these books.

James Patterson only wishes he could write this good.

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